I’ll never get behind why some fans believe Shirou finds some sort of ~balance~ in Unlimited Blade Works route. If anything, I believe that’s the route he ditches his personal bonds for the sake of ideals. His relationship with Rin is shallow and he feels little about about outside sexual tension and lipservice to the tsundere fanboys. He never helps her to deal with her issues, he never knows her outside of a superficial cute one dimensional tsundere manner.
That’s ok tho. It’s purposeful their relationship was shallow and meaningless.
Because the actual focus of his relationship is with Archer, even Ilya and Taiga said Rin was quite irrelevant in that route, despite being the love interest. Archer wanted to make peace with his ideals. There’s a question brought up by him which applies to all the moral of the story: do you fight to protect an ideal or people? Those who fight to protect ideals only can never save people. Rescues can happen, but that’s not truly saving them.
That’s why Shirou never saves anyone in UBW, not really. He doesn’t. He can protect his ideal and he does the final word is Archer establishing he wasn’t wrong with this choice.
Heavens Feel is the opposite, saving people, a person he loves becomes the priority over saving and protecting an ideal, just like saving an ideal was the focus over people in the last route (the scene with Taiga in danger came to mind). Of course, one can protect an ideal by saving people, but what matters in the narrative is the end goal and not the means (in UBW, Shirou helping people isn’t his goal, but means to an end, his goal is an ideal). To no surprise, the focus of his attention is a lovely person he loves and cherishes: Sakura. To no surprise, he learned Kiritsugu failed to protect his loved ones and isn’t a superhero as he thought he would (while no such reflection happens in UBW). He saved Sakura and he saved Rin (unlike UBW). Rin needed this closure, needed Shirou to help them find the way to be sisters. He also saved Ilya who might have died, but did so without regrets. Saving someone doesn’t always mean saving their lives. So the partying shot there’s Shirou surrounded by his loved ones, his family, doing a mundane thing like watching the cherry blossoms.
Interestingly enough Sakura loves Shirou’s ideals and Rin criticizes them and finds them illogical and his way of life painful while Sakura’s the one mourning when he discarded them. Rin cries because Shirou tells her that sorry but that’s how he is.
The route he learns to balance (or should I say, the one he gets both with the same intensity) is the one I see accused of being the ‘pure ideal one’ by I think misjudge it (because superficially it seems that way, but no). It’s Fate. Because Shirou didn’t only focused on proving his ideals and maintaining them. He also focused on saving someone above everyone else, what he did not do in UBW. He loved and wanted Saber to be happy above everyone else. Saber had a double nature of girl he loves and a pile of unstained ideals and part of the conflict of the route is Shirou accepting this.
So once the game ends, and he comes to both answers: protecting your ideals is right as they are beautiful and saving people is what gives you happiness you ought to pursue one can unlock Last Episode. Last Episode with Shirou (and Saber) upholding his ideals while wishing to reward Saber and be with her, looking for her endlessly, he lived his ideals the fullest but placed her in equal importance to them. He becomes a timeless star like Saber and both are reunited to share the happiness as person together. Shirou managed to do both in Fate. The last shot is Avalon, the melting embrace of two stars who have fulfilled their duties as become people again.
Kiritsugu, on the other hand, failed both: he couldn’t protect his ideals and he couldn’t save the people he loved. He missed his chance when he was tragically young and keep making the wrong choices in the course of his life. Shirou exists to take the happiness or be the ideal he failed to follow. Or both.
My two cents.
Your argument is reliant on Shirou and Rin not actually being compatible, which I’d say is completely untrue. His relationship with Rin is different from Saber or Sakura, but that doesn’t mean that UBW Shirou can’t love her. The three girls have different reasons for why Shirou finds them attractive. Saber has the elegant grace as well as complementing Shirou’s love of cooking. Sakura is someone who Shirou wants to protect, and the two of them have a lot in common personality-wise. Rin is distinct in that she’s a friend - not just in one or two routes, in each route she gets really close with Shirou. Their personalities just mesh well together. To help clarify: there are three types of love, from a psychological perspective: Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment; and for all three of the girls in Fate, Shirou has all of these (in the girls’ respective route). Or are we to assume that Shirou decided to spend the rest of his life studying magic alongside Rin just because he’s a horny teenager?
The reason Shirou has found a good balance in UBW, I feel, is because he understands the ideal is impossible. He sees firsthand what will happen to himself if he follows it blindly. It’s sort of that “jumping over the bar” story that is told in Heaven’s Feel, that Shirou is worth looking up to for his tenacity if nothing else. Also, in the Good End, he’s probably well on his way to help save Saber. Is it smart? No, not really. But nobody should look down on Shirou for trying. If he succeeds, then well, he’d be the greatest hero ever to walk the face of the Earth.
I’d say that in terms of becoming a “hero,” UBW has the most going for him. Fate Shirou has never been confronted with his ideals, so he will just continue to follow them without regard for the consequences. I’d say this gives him the biggest chance of getting himself killed out of his bullheadedness or straight-up becoming Archer. Heaven’s Feel Shirou has completely given up being a hero, content with just living a regular life at his home. UBW Shirou has what many fans would say the best of both worlds: he has a great girl by his side, and is well on his way to work on helping people. It’s not fair to really go into the people Shirou has saved in the story itself, since the story dictates how many people he is allowed to save, and in UBW, that is limited to himself and Archer (though saving Archer is heartbreakingly futile due to the structure of Servants). But if you follow the logical path of things, Heaven’s Feel has him at what I’d say is the smallest chance of saving more people in the future.
The reason people find UBW Shirou best balanced isn’t because of what occurs in-story, but rather what logically will occur after the story. I suppose it all boils down to what one considers most noble.
Did you even read what I wrote? My argument is reliant on the focus of the route, not about the relationships or compatibility between Shirou or any of the girls. UBW doesn’t explore Shirou’s relationship with Rin, like HF explores his relationship with Sakura or Fate with Saber.
It explores his relationship with Archer. This is canon, official, even Taiga and Ilya mock how unimportant Rin is in the route because Archer is the focal point.
I never once said Rin and Shirou weren’t compatible as couple, only that there’s no real relationship or depth of feelings in UBW itself, because Rin was never the focus of it. HF shows they could be, but HF explores Shirou’s relationship with Sakura, even if exposures and serves as Rin’s character development of the side.
If Rin was important to him as person, the focus of the route would have been saving Rin… as person but alas she was a footnote, if it hurts your shipping tendencies, go and blame Nasu. One heroine got to be shafted, Rin draw that unlucky short stick.
…Frankly though, I don’t care what you assume in your headcanon of what will happen. We don’t see Shirou in UBW know Rin or her issues at all. He remains oblivious of them (while he knows them in HF), we have the afterwards of what it was with its conclusion: the conclusion is exposed by Archer saying his ideals were not wrong and he did nothing wrong which was parroting what Shirou told him. Shirou told Rin he understands he’s wrong as human being but can’t help himself, so she’ll have to deal with it in the Castle. She couldn’t do a damn about it, only cry for him. It matters little what you think what could happen, Nasu already left clear UBW is about his ideals and how is beautiful to pursue them no matter what. It was never about Shirou. the Person. That was what HF about.
Fate Shirou was never confronted by his ideals? Are you serious? What do you think it’s the light of Excalibur? It’s HIS IDEALS, the ideals of every single warrior crystallized in that light. Did you even know what it is? That’s why Shirou starts understanding Saber the Ideal King after being exposed to it. Fate Shirou indeed confronted them but through Saber and not through Archer which created a crisis of accepting what she is (which was resolved in the end) because of the dual nature of the focus. Saber, who he also thought was a loved one as he did with Sakura. Saber, in case you don’t remember, had exactly the same issues of Archer, that’s why she and he were referred as mirror images in UBW with a similar self-destructive issue; but in Fate, she realized she could get her happiness as person and to preserve her ideal, that was the whole point-same with Shirou. And Shirou’s FULLY aware he’s messed up, Saber tells him early on and LAST EPISODE which is a recap of the route and the ending of Fate recovers this and makes him understand his mistake. Last Episode is the closure of Shirou as ideal and as a man, it’s the FATE ROUTE he manages the final wrap up, after exploring his pursuit of ideals (UBW) and of his happiness and protection of a person (HF). You can headcanon b-but he learned this in UBW or HF in the future, but that’s not canon.
The final word in UBW is about his beautiful ideals, with Archer and Shirou confrontation only. The final word of HF is about his happiness as a person, surrounded by his new family. The final word in Fate is becoming a hero, a star so high enough to join Saber and becoming a happy person next to her. He gets both but once the reader and thus, the witness of Shirou’s journey, realizes his ideals are worth pursuing but so is protecting the happiness and smile of the one he loves.
UBW Shirou’s goal is protect his ideals, using saving people as means. Thanks to his focus on Archer. HF Shirou’s the opposite. Thanks to his focus on Sakura. Fate Shirou struggled and acted like an idiot because he had to be confronted with both with Saber, but he finally got this, his cake and he ate it on-screen.
UBW Shirou only has ideals by the end, Rin’s merely his babysitter lover by his side, that’s why her wishes, desires and entire arc is disregarded until HF, where she finally achieves her happiness and she’s rescued as person with a character development. Saber got disregarded as person too, but at least she got to be proud of her ideals. Because Saber is both a girl and a pile of ideals, that’s why she and the sword that embodies all ideals of the past, present and future are together as one and why Archer, who is a pile of ideals himself, forgot everyone of his life but never Saber or her light.
However, I do not think HF Shirou or UBW Shirou would not change in the future. Sakura’s supportive of his ideals and was the first one heartbroken when he ditched them. Rin is not supportive of his ideals and was the first one heartbroken about his distortion in UBW. We need to trust them he’s in their hands, nonetheless the balance was unmistakeably found in Fate. Where he could save his ideals and a person.
It could happen, but it was just NOT EXPLORED ON THE VN which was my entire point. While what happened in the Fate route was and got a resolution and an ending about it. Getting “the beautiful girl and the superhero stuff” is exactly what he got in Fate and you’re looking at a gross and undermining way dumbing down Rin as some idiotic girl who just wants a boyfriend when in that very route her last thoughts when she was about going to die were about the sister she’s still estranged of and not about Shirou (no wonder she only gets real character development in HF). In UBW, he never really gets Rin, he never helps Rin, Rin’s just his babysitter so is Saber in Good End, we never see Shirou doing a damn thing to actually help them with their issues, because Archer said it. If he wanted to protect his ideals, he can’t really save people, this was also truth to Saber too. UBW Shirou is OKAY with being ideals only…and this has nothing to do with his compatibility or not with Rin, but the fact the route isn’t focused on their relationship but his relationship with Archer. I can’t stress it enough for you to Get. It.
Archer, I reiterate, made a question: what are you protecting? Ideals or people?
UBW Shirou did take a choice. He protected ideals. So did Archer, by the way. But in that way, they can’t really save people. That’s exactly why Rin, his loved one of the route, who has her own suffering, is ignored and brushed aside. He never saved or helped Rin, the person.
HF Shirou chose to save a person, rather than his ideals. He helped Sakura to save herself (just like Archer said, people can only save themselves) but he had to stop protecting his ideals.
In Fate, though? In Fate, he both kept his ideals and saved the happiness of the person he loved and helped her solve her issues, that was Saber, who was both a Hero like Archer (with issues similar to his) but a girl and a love interest (like Sakura). That’s why I said he got balance: he preserved both onscreen and his conclusion involved both things.
As contrast to Kiritsugu who abandoned his ideals and was unable to protect his loved ones, he failed in both. This doesn’t mean, as I said, HF Shirou wouldn’t try to repick his ideals in the future with sidekick Sakura (who would love this) or UBW Shirou wouldn’t be able to help Rin with her issues, but it wasn’t explored or found as balance in the routes Nasu wrote, while Fate route had an exploration and a resolution that did this.